COVID-19

Spirit CEO Urges Employees, Passengers to Get Covid Shots, But Says the Airline Has No Mandate

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  • Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie told CNBC on Friday that he's urging all passengers and employees to get Covid shots.
  • The low-cost carrier has no plans to implement vaccine requirements.
  • The airline has seen leisure travel rebound “quite quickly,” Christie said. "We've had a very, very busy summer."

Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie told CNBC on Friday that he's urging all passengers and employees to get Covid shots, even though the low-cost carrier has no plans to implement vaccine requirements.

"Rising case counts with regard to the delta variant obviously is a concern for everybody," Christie said on "Squawk Box." The answer to that, we believe, is to get your vaccine, make sure you get out there and get vaccinated."

Christie said the company does not have the authority to mandate vaccines for travelers, saying that he believes it's going to be a "federal question." Spirit, however, is still "strongly encouraging" employees to get vaccinated and use facial coverings, he said.

The CEO said Spirit implemented facial covering requirements since early in the pandemic, which remain in place today as the highly contagious delta variant drives the latest surge in Covid cases across the United States. Even though some pandemic-based restrictions are slowly returning, Christie said the "market is still open" with airlines able to operate without limitations on travel.

Spirit on Wednesday reported an adjusted second-quarter loss of 34 cents per share. That was much narrower than the 81-cent loss analysts had expected. Revenue of $859 million — a decrease of about 15% compared with the second quarter of 2019 before the pandemic — was also better than expectations. The budget airline said it ended the second quarter of this year with $2.2 billion in unrestricted cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investment securities and liquidity.

"In June 2021, we recorded our first month with adjusted net earnings since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic," Christie said in the company's quarterly results press release. The Florida-based airline saw improved demand in its domestic and overseas markets as the second quarter progressed.

Spirit operates flights in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, leisure traffic has led the recovery and Spirit is a leisure-based airline, so we're focused mostly on big leisure destinations … and that traffic has really rebounded quite quickly. We've had a very, very busy summer," Christie told CNBC. 

Spirit announced early last month plans to expand into Miami International Airport later this year, adding flights to 30 cities, including New York, Cleveland and Denver. Others include service to Cali and Medellin, Colombia, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Spirit already flies out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, about 25 miles north of Miami international.

Spirit, along with American AirlinesDelta Air Lines and United Airlines, recently announced plans to resume hiring and add more pilots to keep up with what executives expect to be robust demand next year. 

While the pandemic led airlines to halt hiring plans and encourage thousands of employees to take buyouts, leaves of absence and other voluntary options, Christie said Spirit did not furlough any of its front-line staff.

"We were able to keep everybody intact, which put us in a good position to take advantage of the rebound we've seen of late. And we're managing our cost structure very well I believe," Christie said.

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